Advances in the Sign Language Development of Deaf Children

Advances in the Sign Language Development of Deaf Children

Advances in the Sign Language Development of Deaf Children

Advances in the Sign Language Development of Deaf Children

Synopsis

The use of sign language has a long history. Indeed, humans' first languages may have been expressed through sign. Sign languages have been found around the world, even in communities without access to formal education. In addition to serving as a primary means of communication for Deafcommunities, sign languages have become one of hearing students' most popular choices for second-language study. Sign languages are now accepted as complex and complete languages that are the linguistic equals of spoken languages. Sign-language research is a relatively young field, having begunfewer than 50 years ago. Since then, interest in the field has blossomed and research has become much more rigorous as demand for empirically verifiable results have increased. In the same way that cross-linguistic research has led to a better understanding of how language affects development,cross-modal research has led to a better understanding of how language is acquired. It has also provided valuable evidence on the cognitive and social development of both deaf and hearing children, excellent theoretical insights into how the human brain acquires and structures sign and spokenlanguages, and important information on how to promote the development of deaf children. This volume brings together the leading scholars on the acquisition and development of sign languages to present the latest theory and research on these topics. They address theoretical as well as appliedquestions and provide cogent summaries of what is known about early gestural development, interactive processes adapted to visual communication, linguisic structures, modality effects, and semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic development in sign. Along with its companion volume, Advances in the Spoken Language Development of Deaf and Hard-of Hearing Children, this book will provide a deep and broad picture about what is known about deaf children's language development in a variety of situations and contexts. From this base of information,progress in research and its application will accelerate, and barriers to deaf children's full participation in the world around them will continue to be overcome.

Excerpt

A colleague of ours once remarked (paraphrasing to protect the innocent): "Isn't it amazing how we can all know so much about this and still know so little?" Even if the comment was not quite as profound as it might appear, in this context, it is dead on. This volume came about because we felt that this is one of the most exciting times in the history of language development research and the most exciting with regard to sign language development of deaf children. Yet, for all of the research we have seen on the topic, the pieces of the puzzle still seem to be spread all over the table, in small interlocking clumps, but without revealing the bigger picture.

It is also a time of great changes in the larger field of research concerning deaf children, for a variety of reasons. Over the past couple of years, in our editorial roles for the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, we have seen some subtle and not so subtle changes in the field. The 800-pound gorilla in this case is the cochlear implant. With regard to spoken language development, the increasing popularity of cochlear implants, particularly in Australia (where approximately 80% of all deaf children now receive implants) and in the United States, is changing the lives of some investigators almost as much as it is changing the lives of deaf children and their parents (Spencer & Marschark, 2003). Research concerning the impact of implants on language

Just in case there is some country that does not have this joke-turned-metaphor:
Q: Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit? A: Anywhere it wants!

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